Up Your Mental Game (Like the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs!)

be-present_recycle-1000785_640“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.”

~Yogi Berra

Whatever you’re trying to achieve in life, state of mind matters. The mental game can be the difference between success and failure. This is true for sports, lifestyle changes and any other goals you set for yourself.

A Win 108 Years in the Making

Think Yogi was wrong? Think the mental game isn’t important? Talk to the Cubs! Back in February 2015, Theo Epstein, Cubs President of Baseball Operation, implemented a program targeting the mental side of the game for the entire team.

Working with famed sports psychologist, Ken Ravizza, the Cubs focused individually, and as a team, to up their mental game. Essentially, “up-ing” their game meant “staying,” as in staying in the moment. Instead of worrying about “what if” with every pitch or at-bat, the players learned to breathe and focus on the present moment. This skill is invaluable in high pressure moments (think: job interview, board presentation; what’s your “high pressure” moment?).

Being able to stay present in nail-biting, anxious, stressful situations ultimately led to the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series in dramatic fashion!  The high stakes of the seventh game could not rattle the team, despite playing mind games with some players. [Check out this video of Anthony Rizzo admitting to his teammate, David Ross, “I can’t control myself right now…I’m an emotional wreck.”

Don’t you think the Cubs agree with Yogi Berra? They mastered the 90% of baseball and were able to deliver the remaining 10%. The players, managers and front office now have months to celebrate and relish their World Series victory. This Thanksgiving is going to happy for them. And let’s not forget the fans! When someone asks them what they are thankful for this year, I think we all know the answer.

The Mental Side of Healthy Eating (Mindful Eating)

Eating mindfully may sound a little cuckoo, or woo-woo. I get it. For people who don’t struggle with emotional eating, it’s a foreign concept. Everyone eats and every toddler learns how to pick up a fork, put food on the fork, stick the fork in his/her mouth and chew. But just like winning a World Series after 108 years, successfully changing eating habits is largely a mental game, too. It is so much more than counting calories. In fact, in most instances it has nothing to do with calories. Let me explain.

Life gets busy. You’re running from one meeting to another, you must return a call before 5pm, you are rushing home from work and – TRAFFIC! – cars aren’t moving. You are famished by the time you walk in the door and eat leftovers out of the refrigerator before thinking about dinner. Rewind to the morning – maybe you were running late and skipped breakfast. It’s so easy to grab a muffin with your morning cup of coffee or tea to try and stave off hunger pangs during the 10am staff meeting. Even snacks that seem healthy can be deceiving. Instead of a candy bar, many people opt for a granola bar. But check that label – there’s nearly as much sugar in that as there is in the chocolate bar you sacrificed in the name of nutrition.

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a lunch meeting where the company provides food. On the surface that sounds great, but it’s easy to get caught up in the meeting and go back for seconds, or thirds, and add a cookie to your plate without really noticing.

Adding mindfulness to your eating habits changes all this. Instead of munching and chewing food because it available and then feeling frustrated about your weight and overall health, you can learn to be aware of the food you’re eating and how it impacts your body.

How to Eat Mindfully

Let’s start with breakfast. Can you make something the night before and have it ready to go? If not, forego the muffin and instead grab a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts. Really think about the breakfast options you have – don’t just head for the usual because it’s easy.

What about lunch? If you can plan ahead and bring a healthy meal to work with you, that’s ideal. If you’re not able to do that or simply enjoy buying your lunch, focus on the choices you have and figure out what is best for your body. If you’re eating at the cafeteria or going out, set a limit for how many trips you’ll make to the buffet and what you’ll put on your plate. What if you mindfully take one cookie instead of three? Mindful eating is not about deprivation. You can have your cake and eat it, too.

eat-1163944_640Finally, it’s evening and time for dinner. Planning your meals is optimal. Cooking in advance or preparing the ingredients so the meal is easy to put together once you get home is great, too.  But, what if you haven’t already prepped and planned? What’s the next best option? Fast food? No. First, breathe. I promise you that slowing down for a moment will actually help you make a decision about dinner more quickly. Now, think about what you want, what’s available, what is easy and what is good for you. What would you choose in this moment?

See, just like the world-champion Chicago Cubs, you just ‘upped’ your mental game!

Now, of course, the goal is to continue this and create a healthy habit of mindful eating every day, every week, every month and every year. It’s not always easy, but as the Cubs realized, the effort is worth it. 

Photos: pixabay

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